Word Count: 2,972
Claire watched Lyle from the reflection in her mirror while she put her mascara on. She had no idea what he wanted. He'd been standing there since she started putting her makeup on, but hadn't said anything.
"What?" she finally asked.
"I'm just watching you."
She closed the mascara tube and set it on her vanity before turning to look at him. "Why? I'm not doing anything that interesting."
"I am?" she asked with a frown.
"Yeah, you look nice tonight."
"As opposed to normally?"
"Well, you're going out. Right? To some deal on campus?"
"Yeah," she said. And his point was?
"Well, the last time I saw you go anywhere you were dressed kind of."
"Don't get mad at me or anything, I'm just saying. You looked kind of cheap."
"And I don't tonight?"
"No," he said, eyeing her skirt and blouse. She hadn't put her boots on yet, but there was nothing cheap-looking about those.
"Thank you," she said. She wondered if he had any idea how good what he'd just said made her feel. She was trying to find her niche, but it was so hard. She'd joined a sorority at the beginning of the school year, hoping to make friends and get some guidance by proximity. That had worked to some degree, but not entirely.
"Now I can bring friends home."
"You couldn't before?"
"No! It's one thing for them to check out my sister like you are now and another the other way."
"I see," she said, not really having noticed Lyle didn't bring friends home. Was she really the reason?
"Mom also wanted me to tell you someone's waiting for you downstairs."
"And you waited this long to tell me?"
"You were getting ready. I used to watch you. Do you remember?"
"Yes," she said with a slight smile. "I remember it drove me crazy that you got toothpaste on my curling iron and then tried to wipe it off."
"How did I know it wouldn't work?"
She laughed. "At least my hair smelled minty. It was better than some things in the bathroom I could have smelled like." She stood then. "You sure I look okay?"
"Yeah. I'd dance with you."
"I'm not sure that's saying much. You're a teenaged boy, you'd dance with a rock if it moved."
She sat on the edge of her bed and pulled her boots on, stopping to look in the mirror to make sure they looked okay with the skirt.
"No, you probably wouldn't. You're pretty okay for a guy."
"Then your date will dance with you."
"I don't have a date."
"You might want to tell that to the guy waiting for you downstairs."
"I don't have a date!"
"Whatever you say, but I'm telling Dad," he said, walking toward his room as Claire left hers and headed downstairs.
"Lyle!" Unbelievable! Just what she needed.
"Mom? Someone's here?"
"Just me," The Haitian said, standing from the couch. "I did not realize you had plans for the evening."
"It's just a party at my sorority."
"Did you need something?"
"No, I just thought I'd come see you."
She glanced at the kitchen. Her mom wasn't standing there, but Claire knew she was nearby. Listening. Would she tell her dad? He'd been called out of town that afternoon. That happened a lot, which seemed odd to Claire since he worked for a paper company.
"You could come with me if you wanted to."
"To your party?"
"Yeah, it's no special occasion or anything. There will even be food there."
"You're dressed up."
"No, I just felt like wearing this. It's not formal or anything."
"Would I be the only male there?"
"No, a lot of my sisters have boyfriends and I'm sure some will be there. And there's a fraternity we do stuff with so some of those guys might be there, too."
"But you were going alone. Or were you meeting someone?"
"No, I missed the last one so it's kind of expected I show up tonight."
"Why did you miss the last one?"
"No reason, I didn't feel like going."
"Would you like me to go with you?"
"Sure," she said with a shrug. She glanced at the kitchen again. "Is that all right, Mom?"
Her mom appeared in the doorway shortly after, a dishtowel in her hand. Her mom rarely did dishes, choosing to use the dishwasher instead. "I think that'd be all right, yes. Be home at a reasonable hour. And take your phone with you."
"I always do."
"And keep it on!"
"Yes, Mom," Claire said. "Do you want to drive or should I?"
"You know where you're going, so you can."
"You're letting me drive?"
"You say that as if it surprises you."
"I've just never driven with you." She grabbed her purse and a jacket that went with the skirt and blouse she had on. "Bye Mom."
"Bye honey," her mom said, following them to the door.
Claire knew her mother would stand at the door until they drove out of sight. It should bug her, but it didn't. She liked that they didn't want to let her out of their sight until they absolutely had to.
It wasn't far to campus, but finding a parking space near the sorority house was time consuming.
"I do not mind walking if you don't," he said and she was relieved. Just the way to make a good impression. Invite him to a party and then make him walk a mile to get there. She parked and locked the car, meeting him on the sidewalk that would lead them to the house.
"I don't suppose you were in a fraternity in college?"
"No," he said simply.
"You think I'm silly for being in a sorority?"
"It is not my place to judge what might be silly for you. And they are popular, or they wouldn't be in existence any longer."
"I really just wanted to belong somewhere, to know I'd have friends somewhere on campus. Not living on campus it's not as easy to make friends."
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Not that I'm ready to leave my parents' house yet. Of course, I don't tell people that. I tell them it's the other way around." She held up her fingers like scissors. "You know, the parents' aren't willing to cut the cord yet."
He chuckled and offered her his hand, which she took. He always did that, initiated contact between them to a point but let her finish it. She knew why he did it that way, so she'd know she had control.
"Your father knows I've been coming to see you."
"I didn't tell him."
"I believe your mother did."
"Oh," she said softly.
"He was not overly pleased."
"I can see why maybe, but not so much in other ways. I feel comfortable around you."
"And that pleases me, but I'm not sure he's ready to admit yet that you are improving drastically."
"Not that drastically. I still have my moments."
"I imagine you will for years to come. I find it amazing the strides you've made the past few months truthfully."
"Thank you. You were right, though, the right psychiatrist seems to have been the key."
"Me, too, because as much as I wanted to I don't think I could do this alone."
"You don't ever have to be alone again, Claire."
"I know, but this is something I have to do myself in a way. Get through this I mean." She glanced at him then at the house. "Anyway, we're here, so that's enough talk of that for the night."
The Haitian started to release her hand when he heard her name called. She held onto his, though, and he took his queue from her. She stopped and talked with many. He could see that she really had made an effort to meet people and make friends. And relieved in a way to find that she really had not befriended just guys. He wondered how difficult it had been at first, but she seemed comfortable now.
She handed him a cup that she'd gotten from someone.
"What is this for?"
"In case you want to drink."
"I'll probably just have a sip of yours; otherwise I'll have water or soda."
"Would you live here if you weren’t with your parents?"
"I could. I'd probably like it better than a dorm. I'll be right back, I'm going to the kitchen to get a soda. The keg's over there if you want some," she said, pointing.
He wasn't much of a drinker, so he made his way to a less crowded and busy part of the room. He wasn't good with people. There was a reason he didn't speak often, he just preferred not getting involved in the lives of others. Callous perhaps, but it had worked for him to this point. However, there was one thing he'd grown rather good at. Watching people without them becoming aware they were being watched. And a college sorority party seemed to give him plenty of fodder.
He felt a hand slide into his and glanced to the side, relieved to see her.
"Sorry if I took too long."
"You are fine." He glanced at the cup she held in her hand. "What are you drinking?"
"Punch. It's really good." She held the cup toward him. "Do you want to try it?"
"No, thank you."
"This is probably pretty lame to you."
"It is fine."
"This is just kind of a social thing, no theme or reason. I'm sure the room will clear eventually and there will be dancing and stuff. Right now, people are just mingling."
"I am fine, Claire. Do you know all of these people?"
"No. Some I know by face but not by name and some I've never seen before. I don't think there's too much going on campus tonight so people will show up who might not otherwise."
She wandered away from time to time, talking with someone or going to get more of the punch she was so fond of. He, on the other hand, rarely strayed from his spot. No one approached him, which was fine with him. Realizing she'd been gone for a while now he scanned the room looking for her. He found her walking toward him.
"Hi," she said, sliding her arms around his neck.
"Hi," he said back, eyes widening a little at her gesture. Until now, holding his hand had been as bold as she'd been. Not that he minded or would complain.
"You don't look like you're having fun. Am I leaving you too much?"
"You are fine. I sort of invited myself along."
"So not true, I invited you."
"Because I showed up at your house unannounced."
She shrugged. "I like having you here."
"That is good to know."
"You think so," she said, sounding uncertain.
He slid the back of his hand along her jaw. She didn't flinch. The first - and only - time he'd touched her like this she had. They hadn't been alone again until now. Always her mother was hovering in the background, not that The Haitian could blame the woman. That didn't mean that it was any less frustrating. And until tonight he couldn't think of a suitable reason to get her out of the house.
He slid his other arm around her waist as he lowered his mouth to hers. Her breath caught as their lips met. She tasted of fruit punch and something else underlying he could not place. She mewled softly into his kiss and pressed against him. He knew despite the experience she might have in the eyes of some she was an innocent, these things new to her. It was refreshing to be with someone so excited and genuine over being on the receiving end of a kiss.
He parted his lips slightly, just enough to trace a short path along her lower lip with his tongue. Quick, uncertain of her reaction to this much. She stiffened at the contact. Her hands gripped his shoulders tighter for a moment and then slackened. He felt her body relax against his as well.
His hand at her jaw slid a slow path down her neck, over her shoulder and along her arm so he could embrace her properly with both arms. She drew away, resting her forehead against his chin.
"Am I supposed to get breathless from a kiss?"
He chuckled softly. "I would be remiss if I did not say yes, so long as it is my kiss."
She giggled softly. "You would, huh?"
"Yes," he said, tugging her closer. "Should I apologize again?"
"Will you look at me?"
She tilted her head up, smiling. He was relieved to see the smile. He'd thought for a moment he'd gone too far and caused her pain.
He saw the look of expectation in her eyes and did not wish to disappoint her, so he kissed her again. It was no hardship. On the contrary, it was enjoyable. Perhaps too enjoyable.
They continued that way for most of the evening. He couldn't recall a time he'd spent hours just kissing someone with there being no expectation of it escalating to more. His hands got a little bolder, but never strayed from her waist, hips or the small of her back. He was careful not to push too far.
So, when she broke away, slipping her hand into his and tugging him toward her he grew confused. He followed wordlessly as she led him up a flight of stairs and yet another.
"Where…" he asked as she opened a door.
He groaned softly, realizing where she'd brought him. He didn't need the benefit of a light to know they were in a bedroom.
"Claire," he whispered.
"Shh," was her response.
"No, I cannot be quiet. You need to hear me on this."
Her hands slid along the length of his arms, up to his shoulders, and she brought her head to his chest.
"I hear you."
"We are not doing this."
"Okay," she whispered. And if he didn't know better he'd think she was sleepy.
"Are you all right?"
"I think the punch was spiked," she murmured.
"So, the kissing downstairs?"
She giggled softly. "Was very nice."
He chuckled. "Yes it was. I should get you home."
"Not yet. Want more kissing."
"As long as that is all you want."
"Would it be so bad?"
"If I wanted more?"
"You are not ready for more."
"You're not me."
"Okay then. I am not ready to give you more."
"That's why I like you."
"Why?" he asked, not sure he understood.
"You're good to me. I like that. I'm not used to it."
"It's a good thing I can act independent of my thoughts."
"Mm, you mean I tempted you?"
"If you were not under the influence, it would be tempting."
"M'kay," she murmured.
"Where are your keys?"
"Purse. In the kitchen."
"No more kissing?"
"If you're still awake when I get you home we can talk about it then."
"'K," she said. If he didn't know better, he'd swear she was going to fall asleep on her feet. He took her into his arms then, carrying her back down the flights of stairs the way they'd come only moments ago. He found the kitchen and someone who knew what Claire's purse looked like.
She woke up once they got outside and was able to walk back to her car.
"You're driving," she said, heading to the passenger side.
"How much punch did you drink anyway?"
"Only a couple of glasses. Maybe three or four," she shrugged. "I don't know. It tasted good."
"I'll bet it did."
"You're laughing at me again."
"I would not do such a thing."
"Are you mad at me?"
"You did not."
"But we were kissing and…"
"We were kissing. There was no expectation of anything else."
"I've never kissed anyone before."
"So you've said."
"It is," he said, slightly amused at her ramblings.
"Going to fall asleep now."
"All right, Claire, I'll get you home."
He rang the bell, hoping it would be her mother who answered. He wasn't sure he wanted to deal with her father for a second time that day. He got his wish, though the look of terror on her face wasn't what he'd been expecting.
"She's in the car sleeping. She's fine," he said simply. "She had some punch that I do not think she knew was spiked."
"Is she all right?"
"A little tipsy and tired, but fine otherwise. I wanted you to know."
"Thank you. I'll get her from here," she said, stepping out of the house.
"All right. If your husband…"
"He was called out of town. He didn't tell you?"
"No, I spoke to him this morning. He must have forgotten to mention the trip." He walked with Claire's mom to her car. "Let me help you get her to the house. I think she's more tired then anything."
"She's still not sleeping real well. Her doctor prescribed a sleeping aid, but she refuses to take it." She stopped just short of the car. "And she'd hate me for telling you that, so let's pretend I didn't say it."
He smiled at that. "All right. Consider it forgotten."
"Thank you," she said.
He helped Claire to the house and assured he'd locked the door, he left. It was the strangest night he'd had in a very long time. And a little frustrating to say the least. One thing was for certain, she had a way of making time spent with her memorable.
Info. on icons used for background:
The non-illustrated icon is courtesy of lay-of-luthien @ LJ. She's got some nice work, and did this and 4 others very quickly! The illustrated icon is courtesy of: julietbunny who gave me this in addition to some other great goodies for the Heroes_Holidays Spring Hiatus project.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com